We’re better off with resolutions

New Year’s resolutions aren’t really working the way they’re supposed to. According to an oft-cited U.S News and World Report, around eighty percent of these annual goals are never actually achieved. And every year, the internet is swamped with analyses on why this is and what we should do instead. We get it guys: calling out New Year’s resolutions for their lack of success in that regard isn’t a hot take anymore. In fact, this fixation on success rates is missing the whole point.  

The reason New Year’s resolutions have lasted so long even as it becomes more obvious that they don’t work out most of the time is because their success isn’t what is important. It’s the act of making the resolution despite all the things that could go wrong that really matters. Opponents fail to appreciate the best thing about New Year’s resolutions: they prime us for a new year with optimism. 

The beginning of a new year is a daunting time. After the festivities, a whole long year stretches out in front of you, with the cold, grey, seemingly never-ending month of January ahead and no major holidays until Valentine’s Day nearly a month and a half later. In the face of such an expanse, it would be easy to fall into cynicism and fear, worrying about how the new year might play out. After all, the new year is so full of unknowns that anything could happen. It can all be pretty intimidating. 

What’s so fantastic about New Year’s resolutions is how they completely subvert this. Resolutions change the unknowns of the new year from something to be feared, into something to be appreciated. Sure, you may not have gotten through your bucket list last year but look!  Now you’ve got a whole years’ worth of potential opportunities. And who knows? Anything could happen. Seeing the new year through this hopeful lens of potential growth leaves room for all sorts of positive change that studies just cannot quantify.  

In fact, the National Institute of Health finds that optimism is associated with better physical and mental health, and it’s hard to see the case against at least attempting a resolution. The impacts are much broader and deeper than whether the initial goal is actually met; the simple act of setting a resolution already has benefits. 

So, pay no attention this year to the thousands of articles which will try to dissuade you from making a 2020 resolution. Who cares about them! Write that bucket list, try out for that sport, go to that gym—it’s worth a shot. After all, no one ever got anything done being cynical. Maybe these resolutions are never met, but what’s the point in getting caught up in that? The hope that inherently comes with these resolutions, however naïve, is worth keeping around for another year.